Wednesday, August 21, 2013

4 Steps to Building a Pre-(Home)School Curriculum

By the grace of God, I have now guided my two oldest children into their formal schooling years. Which means, I've "made it through" two preschoolers! Yay for me!!

I have a secret, though. One you may not be aware of. Those who know me "IRL" can tell you the sordid truth, but I'll save them the trouble and just put it out there:

I am not a "littles" person. 

Some people are. Some of my best friends are. Maybe you are. Maybe you're one those people who see a toddly little person whose words have finally become intelligible to those outside their immediate family and you light up! Maybe you have an infinite capacity for patience with little people because you just find everything they do and say so gosh darn cute; you know all the best games to play; you love crafts--in fact, your middle name is "Glitter"--and playing trains for two hours straight is your idea of an afternoon well-spent. Preschool Whisperer, my hat is off to you!

Or, maybe you're something more like me. You like the baby years...and then you're a little bit lost until they hit the fifth birthday.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE my kids--in ALL their phases...I'm just naturally better at rolling with the punches in some stages more than in others.

Now, why would you want to come to someone like me, someone who admittedly struggles to adapt herself to the foreign and fantastical land of Preschoolmania? Well, if you're Jane "Glitter" Smith, then trust me, you don't need my help. In fact, you can come over to my house and offer your expertise any day of the week! I'll even bake you cookies. But, if you're a little more like me (ie. you're ready, willing, and able to tutor your friend's high schooler in AP English but you find yourself hyperventilating over phrases like "fine motor skills" and "finger paints") you're in good company.

And guess what? If I "made it through," you can, too!

Just bear with me, and I'll share how I did it what I've learned.

1. Let your child lead. 

By this, I mean: there is no rush. Daycares today are trying to turn your drooling one-month-old into Baby Einstein, but the real Einstein was, in fact, a late bloomer academically. Pretty ironic if you think about it.

Don't force your child to go ahead of his pace. You might be worried that Junior will be headed off to college still holding a pencil in his fist instead of the way he's supposed to and believing there is a Letter Ellemmennopee, but no amount of stress on your part is going to accelerate his development. Trust me, it'll come. So, trust your child.

2. Where "skills" are concerned, play makes perfect. 

I'm a big fan of "whole child" education, meaning that as an educator, you're striving to nurture and mold not just the intellectual bits of a child's brain matter but her whole being - physical, spiritual, emotional, social, artistic, and academic.

In the preschool years, there's a lot of talk about "skills," specifically of the fine and gross motor varieties. There are curricula out there that speak to these, but I have found through trial and error that the best thing you can do is intentionally play with your child.

The "with" is important here - and I'll be honest, it's not always something I've focused on. But in retrospect, I've discovered it's worth it. It really is. I am not making that mistake again with #3. Here's why:

Every child has her strengths and her weaknesses. So do parents. My husband is a computer engineer. I'm an artist. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we don't do a lot of rough-and-tumble, bat-and-ball play around our house. But children need that kind of play to develop. And they need us--their parents--to show them how.

For ideas on how to play with your children to develop their skills, check these pages out:
Gross Motor Skills
Fine Motor Skills

Also, get some of this stuff.

And then, relax. Have fun! Remember this is, as they say, child's play.

3. Count on it. 

Whatever "it" might be. Fingers. Cheerios. Gold fish. Yes, play with your food! Voila, it's math!

The most important gift you can give your preschooler in the mathematics department is this: a concrete understanding of what numbers are and mean.

2 + 2 = 4 should not be a series of theoretical memorized numerals. It should be M&Ms in your tummy. Help your child to see the math all around her. The hexagonal stop sign. The circle of the moon. The triangle in her pizza slice. Addition in her cereal bowl. Subtraction as her apple slices disappear. You get the picture.

Play with your numbers. Bonus points if you get to eat them, too!

4. Read. A. Lot.

Frankly, this comprised the bulk of my formalized Pre-K curriculum.

Much of pre-kindergarten education can really be termed "pre-reading" education or "reading readiness." Sounded good to me. I'm a big fan of books, and I spend a lot of my time around them. My mother was a children's librarian, and I myself am a writer.

Talking to a lot of my friends, though, I've discovered that many of the titles and authors I take for granted as common knowledge are, in fact, fairly esoteric. If this describes you--if you have never heard of The Snowy Day, A. A Milne, or Donald Hall, have no fear! My esoteric knowledge can be yours at the click of a button.

But the button is in the next post, so stay tuned. ;-)


  1. I could have written what you wrote about the preschool years. I am so with you. Thanks for the tips! We're embarking on kindergarten this year with my 4.5 year old and I have an almost 3 year old who could stand do do a little basic learning as well.

  2. Hat's off!
    I just enrolled my little one in a pre-school program, because I just couldn't get myself organized enough to do all the things you mentioned. I am happy because the program requires parents to volunteer in the classroom. Now I can borrow some ideas from the professionals! You as always are an inspiration.
    Could you do a post on incorporating your faith / introducing it to your children? Beyond bedtime prayers I am floundering.

  3. Hi Kim! Congrats on finding a schooling option that is right for your family. I know it can be a stressful decision to make.

    I will try to get some posts on incorporating faith soon. In the meantime, I suggest clicking on "The Liturgical Year" link in the topics cloud at the side of this page.

    God bless!


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